With chickens’ popularity at fever-pitch now, thousands of first-time chicken keepers will be bringing home chicks for the first time this summer.
Unfortunately, if you don’t research your breed correctly, you could well end up buying the wrong chicken. You should make sure you understand what makes the ideal chicken breed before you go buying your chicks. In my opinion, the ideal backyard chicken needs to be suitable for beginners and also not require lots of land to roam around on.
This article will guide you through the key characteristics of what makes the perfect backyard chicken.
Characteristic 1: Friendly and Calm Disposition
As a beginner, you want a breed of chicken that is calm and docile. The last thing you need is a flighty breed (like a Minorca) that will scream blue murder every time you approach the coop!
Even with the hardiest of chicken, there will be times when you need to pick them up to perform a routine health check. If you have a breed of chicken with a clam friendly disposition, they will be indifferent to you picking them up and looking after them. Also, your neighbors will much prefer tamer chickens that are quieter and don’t cause a commotion!
Characteristic 2: Comfortable in Smaller Spaces
If you’re keeping chickens in your backyard, or garden, chances are you don’t have acres of space. Therefore you should be looking to choose a breed of chicken that doesn’t need too much space.
Larger breeds such as Jersey Giants and Brahmas require larger coops and nesting boxes; they also need more roaming space. For this reason, we would advise beginners to avoid these breeds as their space requirements can be significant. Instead, you should be looking for breeds of chicken that don’t require as much space.
Characteristic 3: Good Egg Layer
When thinking of a breed, you first need to think about why are you getting chickens. The majority of people get chickens because they want delicious fresh eggs. Unfortunately, not every breed of chicken will reliably lay your eggs. In general, there are four types of chicken breeds; heritage, egg layers, broilers and dual-purpose.
If you want fresh eggs each day from your girls you will want to pick either an egg-laying breed or a dual-purpose breed. Dual-purpose means that the breed is capable of being both an egg layer and a meat bird.
Characteristic 4: Low Maintenance
If you’re new to keeping chickens you will already have your hands full learning about how to care for them properly. You will have the daily tasks of letting them out to range, feeding them, cleaning out the coop and collecting eggs at a bare minimum.
However, as a beginner, you don’t want any additional or special care requirements. Certain breeds such as Polish Chickens will require additional care; their hair grows down over their eyes and will periodically need trimming.
Your first chickens should be hardy, self-reliant hens that don’t require additional care.
Our Favorite Picks
So which breeds of chicken meet all of the characteristics mentioned above?
- Rhode Island Reds
- Buff Orpingtons
- Plymouth Rocks
All three of these breeds make fantastic starter hens.
Remember this list isn’t exclusive (due to wording constraints) so don’t be too upset if your favorite breed isn’t listed here!